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Stan Hall

Dear friends:

Some very sad news – Stan Hall passed away this morning (September 7, 2009) at his home.  I’ve included some information about Stan here.   Please keep his wife Doris and their daughter Denise and family in your thoughts.  I’ll know more about the service later.

I was honored to, in 1997, compile “The Collected Works of Stan Hall”, published by the SHA, and as such, came to know Stan even better.    We have lost a legend today.  May he rest in peace.  

Janice Armstrong


From “The Collected Works of Stan Hall”, with some modifications

Photo #5181 | Stan HallInside Stan Hall’s DNA chain is a gene called aviation. ; Inside that gene is a sub-gene called soaring.  Together, they’ve been blueprinting a life dedicated to machines that fly – and that life began at age 4, when, sitting in his mother’s lap, he went aloft in a Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny”.   77 years later he still recalled the name of that pilot.  It was Seely Blythe.

But pilot Blythe’s influence was overshadowed by one Charles A. Lindbergh, the patron saint of all aviation.   Stan was 12 that night in 1927 when Lindbergh hit the runway at Le Bourget.   The following day Stan started putting together what he called a glider.   Well, it wasn’t really a glider so much as a contraption – which, thanks to alert parents, never got finished.  Getting a real glider completed and into the air had to wait until 1931.  

The ensuing four years saw three more gliders and it was crash and build, crash and build.   A defining moment came in 1936 when it became apparent to Stan he needed more smarts if he was to get out of this discouraging cycle.  That was the year fate intervened to prevent his attending college.   That fate was the year Hitler set the world on fire.  

In Los Angeles, North American Aviation was busily building up its engineering staff.   Stan landed a job as an engineering draftsman.   He had no engineering training.  What got him the job was his experience as an “aircraft builder” (read “gliders”) and the fact that he got top grades in high school drafting.  From then on, the on-the-job engineering training came fast and furious.   In the five years he worked at North American, he became involved in the design of the company’s AT-6 trainer, the B-25 bomber and the P-51 Mustang fighter.  Under the pressure of wartime, and working under some brilliant if harried engineers, Stan soaked up technical know-how like a sponge.   He picked their brains without letup.

Then the military gliders came, gliders capable of carrying up to 15 soldiers.  Douglas Aircraft hired Stan away from North American to help design the XCG-8 and XCG-15 cargo gliders conceived by the great Hawley Bowlus.

Near completion of the glider program at Douglas, Stan left the company to join a new civilian contract flying school in Wickenburg, Arizona.  He wanted to FLY for a change.  Here, he taught young staff sergeants to fly training gliders preparatory to flying the huge cargo gliders Douglas and others were building.  Later, as Flight Commander, he taught aviation cadets to fly the Stearman PT-17 airplane.  It was here that he and his new bride, Doris, set up housekeeping, and it was here their son, Rogers was born.   Eight years later, in Los Angeles, daughter Denise was to be born. 

The war had to end sometime, and it did.   The Hall family moved back to Los Angeles, where Stan took a position with Northrop as an engineering designer.   With his flight experience he also served as an on-call, corporate pilot, flying a military twin-engine UC-78 bailed to company and a company owned-Bellanca Skyrocket.

His engineering training was now going full throttle as he joined the legendary John K. Northrop in the design of the Northrop B-35 and the YB-49 Flying Wings.  In those days, designers received special training by experts in stress analysis and other engineering disciplines.  The order of the day was, then, that designers do their own first-order analysis, followed as necessary by more detailed analyses by the stress engineering group.   Stan found this experience to be priceless, an experience he had been capitalizing on and adding to ever since.

He spent five years at Northrop, the last one as Manager of Experimental Design at the company’s Snark missile installation at Cape Canaveral, Florida.  A few months after returning to home base in Hawthorne, California, Stan left to join the Lockheed Missiles and Space Division in Van Nuys, California.   In 1957 the company moved to Sunnyvale, and Stan moved with them.  He spent 20 years with Lockheed, managing technical programs.  It was here he supervised the design of the biologically-oriented payload on Discoverer 13, the first payload ever recovered from space.   And it was here that Stan later conceived and had patented the Lockheed/Army YO-3A Quiet Reconnaissance airplane which saw outstanding service in Vietnam.   Stan was Manager of Airframe Design on the YO-3A program and later, Manager of Engineering Flight Test.

In all, Stan served as an engineer for four major aircraft manufacturers over a period of 37 years.  After retiring from Lockheed he was called back as a freelance engineering consultant.   It was in this service that he did the conceptual design and stress analyses for the sailplane-like Solar Happ, an unmanned, solar powered, long endurance, high altitude reconnaissance aircraft.   Working on his own drafting board at home, he also did conceptual designs and engineering analyses of remotely piloted aircraft for Lockheed’s facility in Austin, Texas.

Since 1931, and during Stan’s long tenure as a professional engineer, he found time to engage in more personal pursuits such as design and construction of ten gliders (including the famous Cherokee II), direct the 1958 National Soaring Contest at Bishop, California, win an appointment to the prestigious SSA Hall of Fame, deliver the 1994 Ralph Stanton Barnaby Lecture, write “Homebuilders’ Hall”, a column devoted to gliding homebuilding which was voted by SSA’s membership as the most popular column in SOARING magazine during the years it appeared, receive an Outstanding Achievement award from the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), earn a Commercial Pilot’s certificate with single and multiengine, instrument and glider ratings, and fly some 5000 hours as Pilot in Command.  He also found time to act as a major influence in the formation of the Sailplane Homebuilders Association (now Experimental Soaring Association), of which he is an Honorary Life Member.

SSA Achievements Page

Posted: 9/9/2009

Final Glide 

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